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One way or another

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“Have my child.”

The Gryffindor girl glanced up from her homework to her brother’s best friend, Sirius Black, giving him an incredulous stare.

“Excuse me? Care to repeat that?” She asked.

“Have. My. Child.” Sirius repeated slowly, stressing each word as if he thought that it would help get the message through. Rude. She wasn’t stupid!

Great, so she hadn’t misheard him. Harry removed her glasses and rubbed her temples. Barely two days into their fifth year and Sirius was already starting with his antics. Although she had to admit that this was new. Kids? With Sirius Black? That was a joke in and of itself! What was he playing at?

“Black, if this is just another one of your stupid pranks, I swear to Merlin I’ll-“

“It’s not a prank.” There was a severity to his tone that Harry had heard only a handful of times before. Haunted, angry, scared…three things the other Gryffindor did not usually express (except to his close friends, and even then it was extremely rare). What had happened to him over the summer?

Harry gazed at him wearily. “Sirius-”

“-Listen! I know we’re young-(“Young?! Sirius we’re-”)-but I have money! I have a lot of money-Uncle Alphie’s been putting money in a separate vault for me for years! And I can get the goblins to transfer the money from my trust fund to that vault, so that won’t be an issue! Plus I turn sixteen in November so I can file for emancipation-that way I can get my hands on the rest of my money before my parents do and I’ll even set up a trust fund right away I promise!”

“Oh sweet Merlin Sirius!”

The boy apparently had not heard her. Or he chose to ignore her. That was more likely. He started pacing around the empty Common Room, sticking closely to the fireplace. The warm orange glow illuminated half of his body, while dark shadows formed on the other half. Sirius looked…excited? Passionate? Eager? Nervous? Harry couldn’t recall ever seeing him like this. This nervous energy that surrounded him was putting the bespectacled girl on edge. She fidgeted, wanting to get up and pace and yell at him all at once.

Sirius ran his hands through his long hair, messing it up further (another thing that had Harry on edge. Sirius was very particular about his hair, and when he had approached her he looked as if he had just gotten off a broom. How nervous was he!?). He stared at nothing, eyes unfocused and dreamy as he babbled on. “As for living arrangements…well I kind of hoped that we would live with your parents while we’re in school because I don’t know a damn thing about babies even though I’ve been reading a ton of books -(“-Books?! You’ve been reading books about this?!”)-yes! Aren’t you proud of me? Anyway, if you don’t want to live with your parents, that’s fine too. My uncle has a small cottage on the coast that he’d be more than happy to rent to us-it’s cute, you’d like it. There’s a garden and it’s near the beach and the kitchen is nice and cozy and there’s a huge fireplace and upstairs there’s a room that’s perfect for a nursery-(“Sirius!”)-sorry, off topic, we can discuss that later! While we’re in school I’m sure the headmaster would be happy to accommodate us and the baby! And I’m sure your mom won’t mind watching the baby while we’re in class-or we could get a house-elf to do it! Of course our friends will be the aunts and uncles too, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind watching the baby for a few hours so we could get some time to ourselves. Can you imagine James in charge of a baby?” Harry really didn’t want to.

“We could be a happy little family, the three of us-or more if you have multiples. They’ll always be protected, loved, taken care of…you name it and it will be done! But, we will have to get married of course. Like, as soon as you’re pregnant. Because having a child out of wedlock is one thing, but being a teenager and having a child out of wedlock? I won’t give anyone the opportunity to possibly take our baby from us-”

Harry had heard enough. The dark haired girl grabbed at her messy bun and took deep breaths to try and assuage her hysteria. Was he being serious (any other time he would have sent her a cocky grin and stated that ‘Yes, I am Sirius’)?! Didn’t he realize how stupid this was?! How desperate was he that he was thinking so far into this? Because really: a trust fund? For a child that they didn’t have yet? Or would have? A house? Marriage?! And why her? Sure they were good friends (not as close as he was with her brother, but pretty damn close!) but that didn’t mean that she was going to jump in the sack with him, get hitched, and pop out a kid at fifteen!

For the first time Harry was glad that Sirius had the foresight to make sure that the common room was empty when he confronted her. Merlin only knows what chaos would have ensued if they had had an audience. Oh god, what if James had been there?! She glared at him over the frames of her glasses.

“Do you even hear yourself Sirius?! Listen to the words that are coming out of your mouth right now!” She yelled.

He blinked back at her, clearly confused by her anger. “Is this about the age thing? Because I get that we’re young-”

“-We aren’t just young, Sirius. For Merlin’s sake we’re only fifteen!” She shot to her feet, standing nose-to-nose with her friend. “And don’t give me that shit about turning sixteen in November. Age is just a number-it’s the maturity and responsibility that counts and I know for a fact that neither of us are ready for the responsibility of raising a child! Yes you put a lot of thought into this-but you said so yourself: you don’t know the first thing about babies! And then there’s the whole marriage thing! Was this some sort of convoluted marriage proposal? Because if you really wanted to marry me, I would have appreciated-oh I don’t know-being in a relationship first!” Angry green eyes bored into equally angry (and hurt) gray. And if looks could kill, both of them would be stone cold dead on the floor.

“You don’t understand!” He growled.

“No, I d-” Harry’s response was cut off by the portrait door swinging open by a giggling James, Remus and Peter.

“Oh man! Did you see the looks on their faces? Too bad Pads wasn’t there! He-speak of the devil! Sirius, where have you…” James gave his friend and twin a once-over. He blinked. “Is everything okay?” The dark haired prankster suddenly found himself pinned to the spot by two furious glares. Whoa! What happened between the two of them!

“Yes.” “No!” Sirius and Harry answered at the same time. They glared at each other again.

“What’s going on?” Remus asked.

Sirius stomped away from the bespectacled girl. He marched passed his roommates and to the portrait hole before he responded. “I asked your sister for help and she won’t listen to me! I’m going to the pitch. I’ll be back later.”

Before he managed to exit, Harry hissed: “You didn’t ask for help, Black! What you’re suggesting is madness!”

The Black heir stilled for a fraction of a second, his hands halfway to the doorframe. He turned to Harry with the angriest expression she had seen directed to her (possibly one of the angriest expressions she had seen on him ever). “Don’t worry, you won’t have to worry about me and my madness anymore. I won’t bother you again!” With that he slammed the portrait shut.

“Good!” Harry shouted, though he could not hear it. She snatched her charms textbook, shoving it into her bag that was on the floor. “Your friend is an idiot.” She hissed at the remaining marauders. “I’ll be in the library if you need me. But for your sakes: don’t.” And on that note, the Potter witch exited the common room in the same manner that Sirius had.

“What the hell just happened?!” James cried. The other two wizards shrugged.

*

Eleven days.

For eleven days they didn’t speak to one another. And if for some reason they needed to speak (Transfiguration) they used some poor soul as their messenger.

For eleven days the Marauders were stuck in the middle of their dispute-and they didn’t even know what it was about! Any attempts at asking were met with ‘Ask him’ or ‘Ask her’ or Remus’s personal favorite: transfiguring a leaf into a stone bust of the other and blowing it up (Harry had quite the vicious side and Remus was glad that he wasn’t on its receiving end). 

For eleven days Remus was stuck going back and forth between his two friends; relaying snide and hurtful messages, dodging curses and hexes as a result of that, and delivering charmed items to the other (the strangest one had been from Sirius: a cute, blue teddy the had the words ‘it’s a boy!’ on its belly. But once the item touched Harry it morphed into a demonic…thing, and the words ‘it’s a boy!’ turned to fiery words reading: ‘it’s a bitch!’. What the fuck was that about?).

They were acting like children, and it was fucking annoying. The full moon being only nights away didn’t help Remus’s mood at all.

And so, fed up with the ridiculous antics of his friends, Remus Lupin began to plot.

*

“Are you coming tonight?” Remus asked Harry. They were seated in a quiet corner of the library, away from other students as they worked on their homework. Remus had snuck in a chocolate bar and started munching on it while waiting for a response.

The green eyed girl looked up from her book with a strained smile. “Sorry Moony. Probably not.” In the four years that Harry had known about his ‘furry little problem’, she and Hedwig missed only a handful of full moons. And never had it been over something as petty as a fight.

Remus stared at her, amber eyes unblinking until she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She hated when he did that. “Because of Sirius?” It was less of a question and more an accusation. It had the intended effect; Harry flinched away and nodded.

“I have no desire to be near that asshole right now.” She told him, going back to her homework.

“What happened, anyway? You still haven’t told us.”

“That’s because it isn’t your business. What happened between Sirius and I stays between Sirius and I.” The soft scratching of her quill became harsh, hurting the werewolf’s ears.

“That’s funny, because dragging us into the mess as your messengers and attacking us doesn’t seem like ‘keeping it between you two’.” The girl flinched again.

Harry looked at her friend from beneath her lashes. He made a good point, yes, but she couldn’t tell him the truth. Merlin only knows what would happen! “I’m sorry. You weren’t…I won’t ask you guys to give him messages anymore. You’re right, and that isn’t fair to you. But this is going to stay between Sirius and me.”

The werewolf made a soft noncommittal noise. “Moony will miss you.” There’s an underlying message to the statement. A remark that was intended to hurt and make her feel guilty. But it wasn’t a lie.

The full moon would be rough without the presence of his oldest pack-mate. Not because he was hopelessly in love with her or whatever it was that some people deluded themselves into believing. She was his Beta. His oldest and closet pack-mate. She had been by his side since first year where she fearlessly stood her ground against the werewolf. She was the one who carried him to the infirmary in the mornings. She was the one who brought a basket full of food for Moony. And she was the only one stupid enough to face the werewolf in her human form with only a snowy owl to protect her (and no matter what she said, it was stupidity; not bravery.). Sure they spent a few moons apart, and those were hell. Remus had no doubt that this one would be no different.

Sighing, Harry sent her friend a tired smile. “I’ll…maybe I’ll stop by for a little bit.”

*

She did.

She snuck down the path to the Shrieking Shack long after the moon had risen with her usual basket of food for the group and Hedwig perched sleepily on her shoulder. She even brought a little extra for Moony as an apology for being so late. Hopefully the werewolf would forgive her.

The damage had been done long before she arrived.

Harry heard the telltale sounds of claws against wood and Moony’s desperate wails long before she reached the door to the shack.

“Hang on Moony, I’m almost there!” She called out. The scratching became harsher, faster. His whines more desperate.

It wasn’t long before they were at the old door (honestly it was a miracle that it was still standing at this point). The moment her hand touched the knob, she ordered him to back up. Hey, sometimes he listened to her.

This was not one of those times.

She made it halfway inside the doorway before she was pinned to the wall by two clawed paws. Hedwig flew off to her favorite spot in the shack (a nest that she had made several years before on the canopy of the bed). Someone, probably James, was wise enough and nudged the door closed while the werewolf was distracted.

Moony sniffed every inch of her, as if looking for an injury that kept her from them. His nose was cold and wet-which was partially a good sign, but she really didn’t appreciate the blood that was getting on her clothes. She scratched behind his ears, trying to distract him, and he growled at her efforts.

“Hey, I’m sorry I’m late. But I’m not hurt, I promise. Now stop sniffing me you big mutt!” Moony growled again but backed off. He looked up and down her body, sniffing the air to see if something was wrong with her.

If Remus hadn’t made her feel bad enough before, she felt terrible at the state that her werewolf friend was in. Moony had taken to tearing out clumps of his fur and leaving deep bites in his own flesh. Along his snout and neck were several nasty looking cuts and there were several places on his body that were still steadily bleeding. She gave the wolf an exasperated sigh.

“What have I told you about the biting, Moony? Sit down so I can bandage you up.” Of course the werewolf didn’t listen. It wasn’t until Harry snapped her fingers and pointed to the ground that he slowly sat on his haunches, glaring at her the whole time (later, Harry would say that he looked like a grumpy, bloodied puppy. Not that she’d ever tell Remus that.). “Good boy. I’ll be quick, I promise.”

Quick wasn’t easy when she couldn’t use magic directly because of Moony’s sensitivity, but she made due. Well practiced hands transfigured a small piece of lint into yards of gauze; a feather into a cloth; a stone into a large bowl. She cast a quick Aguamenti on the bowl, and a heating charm after. Soon she was dabbing the washcloth in the warm water and cleaning Moony’s fur of blood and sanitizing his wounds as best as she could. When it came down to wrapping the gauze, a black furred head appeared in the corner of her eye and held the bandage with his nose so Harry could wrap it.

For the first time in several days, Harry didn’t shout or curse the dog animagus. They were…civil.

“There Moony, all done! Thank you for being so well behaved.” The girl kissed his nose. She didn’t verbally thank Sirius, opting instead to pat his head a few times, and giving a good scratch to the spot under his jaw that he liked. “Time to eat!”

*

When the sun was only just started taking over the sky and the moon faded for the day, Harry’s alarm went off. She woke to her pack curled loosely around each other on the upstairs bed. Moony was to her side like he usually was, with James on the other side of him; Peter nestled snuggly between the werewolf’s shoulder blades; and Sirius’s upper body draped over her abdomen so that his snout was nestled between her waist and Moony’s side. Hedwig hooted softly in her perch.

Gently, she extracted herself from the dogpile (no pun intended). Sirius huffed at being woken so early, but she ignored him. The dog tiredly watched as she gently picked up Peter and placed him on her still sleeping brother, giving both a few gentle scratches to wake them.

Now all she had to do was wait for Moony to transform back.

It wasn’t long. There were disgusting ‘pops’ and ‘cracks’ and other wet noises that were only heard during these moments. Soon the large werewolf was replaced with the gangly teen wrapped in loose, bloody bandages.

Moony stared at his Beta with sleepy gold eyes.

“Good morning.” Harry whispered. “Let’s get you to the infirmary.” Carefully, she ushered him to the edge of the bed, draped his arm around her shoulders, and hefted him to his feet.

*

There is a rule that the morning after a full moon is naptime for Remus. Partly because Harry and the Marauders are his best friends and they love him a lot and know that the rest is good for his health. But the main reason is that Remus is a god-damn terror in the mornings, and mornings after the full moon were worse.

So, if one of his kind-hearted friends were to visit him on one such morning, they would do well to leave him alone and let him sleep. And be quiet. Generally, the Marauders would visit in the mornings, or during breaks because of classes (and then Remus would be out of the Infirmary by dinner). But on days where there were no classes the group would stay by the werewolf’s side; quietly eating food the House-Elves delivered, reading, doing homework, or playing chess. It was a refreshing break from their usual boisterous personalities (James and Sirius) and the entire group benefitted from these ‘days off’.

Therefore, it was rather odd that on one such day-a Saturday in fact-Peter and James left the Infirmary with a stretch and a yawn.

“Where are you going?” Harry hissed at her brother, grabbing his elbow.

“Breakfast.” James replied in the same manner that one would say ‘Duh’. He made a dramatic show of prying his arm away as if she had hurt him. “I’m starving. Plus I need to get my homework.” Red flags should have been going off in Harry’s mind because James had never bothered with homework before noon on any day. However she was too sleepy and too worried about Moony to give it a second thought.

Sirius stood from his seat beside the bed. “I’ll come with you.” James waved him off. Sirius eyed him suspiciously.

“Nah, don’t. I need you here to watch my sister. Make sure she actually eats instead of fussing over Moony. Don’t worry, I’ll bring you your homework!” And with that, James and Peter ran out of the private room with matching smirks, practically slamming the door shut behind them.

“What the hell is his problem?” Harry asked, though she did not expect an answer. Sirius just muttered something about ‘the tosser…better not bring my homework…traitor’. Idiot.

It wouldn’t be more than half an hour before they noticed that something was off (more so than they originally thought). James and Peter had yet to return, and Sirius and Harry had eaten their breakfasts in awkward silence. When it was clear that both would be stubbornly silent, and therefore nothing interesting would happen, Sirius hopped up from his seat and made his way to the door.

“I need to piss.” He announced. Charming, that one. “I’ll be back.”

Harry ignored him. Honestly, she could care less if he came back or not.

She listened to Sirius’s footsteps, but instead of the soft clicks of the door opening and closing, there was jiggling and cursing. And then more jiggling. Then more cursing. Then a hard kick.

“Sirius, what in Merlin’s name are you doing?” Craning her head a bit, Harry watched as the Black Heir glared at the door and proceeded the process of jiggling the handle and cursing. Harry wanted to put her head in her hands. This was the boy who had come up to her almost a fortnight ago and asked her to bear his child. How had he made it to fifth year again? “Sirius, are you having some issues?” She asked sardonically.

“It’s. Locked.” He hissed. “Fuck! Open up already!”

“Have you tried saying please?” As it was, Sirius was not in the mood for Harry’s sarcastic comments so early in the morning. What a grump. “Honestly-Sirius Black, are you or are you not a wizard?” There was silence, and then a quiet Alohamora. The door didn’t unlock. Sirius recast the spell once, then twice, then a third time-each time getting angrier and louder.

Finally fearing the Sirius would wake the sleeping werewolf, the Potter girl stood. She went to the angry teen and clamped a hand around Sirius’s wrist. “Enough, Sirius. You’re going to wake Moony.”

Sirius, shockingly, calmed…slightly. “But it’s locked.” He stressed.

“Yes, I can see that. But if you continue what you’re doing you’re only going to manage doing one of two things; Waking up Moony, or blowing the door to shreds and then waking him.” She chose to ignore his comment about the door being open then. “Let me try.” He gave her a mock bow and stepped out of the way.

She really didn’t expect much. If this was a prank by James (because Sirius’s reaction led her to believe that he was not involved) then her idiot (genius) of a brother would have found a way to ward the door against their spells. She certainly didn’t expect a folded piece of parchment to appear after her spell hit the door.

Sirius snatched the offending paper off the door and read it aloud:

“Messer Padfoot and Miss Lioness,

On behalf of the entire school populace (yes, even the Slytherins) you two are hereby sentenced to being locked in together until you talk out whatever issues you’re having at the moment. (Yeah! Get that thing that died out of your asses!)

To ensure that you don’t curse each other, we’ve locked you in with Messer Moony. You wouldn’t want to wake him now, would you?

The door with unlock once you’ve had your chat. (Or if one of you is strangled to death)

Sincerely,

Messers Moony, Wormtail, and Prongs.”

“I’m going to kill them.” Sirius hissed. “I’m going to find a way to unlock this door, and I’m going to kill them.” He pivoted in a sharp motion, heading for the bed their friend was on. “I bet this was all your idea!” He spat, pointing at the sleeping werewolf. “This has ‘Moony’ written all over it! I told you to leave it alone-but no! You had to go and stick your big nose in my business!”

Harry ran over to him and yanked his hand away from their sleeping friend. “Sirius! That’s enough!” She hissed through clenched teeth.

He spun to face her. “And you! Why aren’t you angrier about this situation?! Did you have something to do with this too?! Did you make them lock me in here with you so you could yell at me some more? Insult me? Well, go on then!”

“Oh grow up! If I wanted to do either of those things I would have picked a better place than our recovering friend’s bedside! Not everything is about you, Sirius Black! (“Me?! How is this about-!”) Lower. Your. Voice! Yes, you’re making this all about you! Just like you always do! ‘Oh woe is me, I’m Sirius Black! I’m locked in a room because I’m emotionally constipated and won’t talk about my feelings or tell anyone if something’s wrong! But it doesn’t matter that someone else is locked in with me-I’m the center of the universe and the only one who fucking matters!’” By the end of her rant, Harry was red-faced and panting. Angry green eyes locked with equally angry gray, daring him to say she was wrong.

“You think-”

Yes, I think. You however do not! No, that’s a lie. You think only of yourself! And-hmpf!” Sirius clamped a hand over her mouth. Moony was shifting on his bed. The two froze and waited in silence for him to be still and his breathing to even. When they were sure that he was asleep, Sirius ushered (manhandled) her to the furthest corner of the room, trapping her there with his arms.  

“Merlin, you’re going to get us killed!” He said. Harry glared at him, shoving his hand from her mouth.

Don’t do that again, Black.”

They were silent, angrily staring at the other; waiting for the other to make the first move. Harry pinned in the corner of the room, and Sirius with his arms on either side of her head. (If anyone had come into the room at that moment they probably would have thought that he was trying to snog her or something!)

Finally, Harry caved. “Move.” She said. He didn’t budge. “Move, Sirius.”

“We’re supposed to be talking.”

“And since when have you ever done as you’re told?”

“Since apparently one of my best friends think’s I’m an ‘emotionally constipated and self-centered arse’.” He sounded tired, pained. Maybe that was why Harry’s anger dissipated. Maybe that was why she conjured two plush chairs so they could sit face-to-face and chat. (At least he let her out of the corner.)

For a long time they just sat there facing each other. Sirius’s elbows were resting on his knees and his hands under his chin. Harry sat curled on her chair. The only sounds in the room were their quiet breaths and the chirping of birds outside.

Sirius stared blankly at a spot by Harry’s feet, thinking. Finally he took a deep, shuddering breath.

“I don’t…” Sirius began. Harry stared at him with a raised brow. “I’m not…I’m not the best at expressing myself-how I’m feeling; what I’m thinking. You know this, you’ve known this since we first stepped on the Hogwarts Express. And yes, I am an arse who thinks about himself a lot-I’ll admit that.” Harry snorted. He gave her a tired smile. “When I talked to you that day…I really thought that you’d say yes-that you’d understand so I wouldn’t have to talk about everything. Hell, a part of me even thought you’d be happy and by now we’d be off to the Ministry, signing our marriage license…I guess…I guess that was really selfish of me. No. It was. It was selfish and unfair of me to spring all that on you without an explanation. And I’m sorry.”

Harry stared at her friend. Few and far between were apologies from Sirius Black. And even fewer were ones as serious as the one that he had just given her. She didn’t know what to say. She gaped open-mouthed at him for several minutes, trying to think of the right words. He grew uncomfortable under her gaze, and shifted in his seat.

“Are you broken?” He asked, trying to defuse the awkward air with a bit of humor. Harry’s mouth snapped shut, a slight pink tinge to her cheeks.

Looking off to the side (because that speck on the wall was oh-so-interesting) Harry contemplated her next words. “Sirius…if…if you’d have just pulled me aside and talked to me…if you had just said that you needed to marry me so you could get away from your parents…I probably would have said yes.”

Sirius perked up a bit at her words. “Really?” She nodded.

“Yeah, of course. But coming up to me and telling me to have your child? What were you thinking?” They both chuckled. In hindsight, it was very silly and rather funny.

“To be honest, I was originally just going to ask you to marry me. But when I was thinking it through I realized that so many things could go wrong. That we’d be separated and I’d be forced to go back…and then one day at dinner my mother was talking about some distant relative who just had a baby and…I don’t know. I really liked that idea. I researched it-yes I did research, mark this day on a calendar!-and spent all summer planning, researching, dreaming…I’m…enamored with the idea. Us living on the coast with our kids and a couple of dogs. We’d fight a lot, yeah, but that’s what we do. That’s how we are. We’re very…passionate.”

“Passionate.” Harry deadpanned.

“Yep.” Sirius made an accentuated ‘pop’ on the p. The ham. It was good to hear some of his usual humor back in his voice. “And we’d have as many kids as you’d want to have, but like, four dogs. That’s not debatable. I’ll even walk them and feed them and clean their shit from the yard.”

“Wow Sirius,” Harry smirked. “You’re so Serious.”

“I’m always Sirius! Anyway…I was-am-really enamored with the idea. About having a family that I love with every fiber of my being, and who loved me the same. Honestly, it was what got me through most days this summer.” It was Sirius’s turn to look away now. Like he didn’t want her to see how much he thought about the idea over the summer-how much he had to think about it.

Harry reached across and placed her hand on his knee. “Sirius…how bad was it?”

“Bad.”

They sat in silence again, her hand on his knee while he avoided her gaze.

After what seemed like hours-or maybe it was only minutes-Harry pulled her hand back. “Why me?” She asked, staring at the place on his knee where her hand had been. 

“What?” He turned to her.

“Why me, Sirius? You could have asked any other girl in the school and you would have gotten the answer you wanted…but instead you came to me. Why?” 

Sirius shrugged. “If I have sex I make sure to use contraceptive charms. I don’t want just anyone. There’s no one else that I want-not for this.” Shocked, Harry snapped her eyes to the boy’s face. His gray eyes bore into her with an intensity that Harry wasn’t used to seeing. “They aren’t you. They fawn over me; you fight me and put me in my place. They don’t urge me to do my homework ahead of time-even though I don’t listen-or bring me my favorite sweets because they had just made a stop in the kitchen and were thinking about me. They don’t give me a heart attack every fucking full moon because they fearlessly and stupidly face a werewolf in human form. They don’t console homesick first years every year, or lie next to me and talk to me for hours when I have a nightmare. They aren’t obnoxiously nice to everyone unless given a reason not to be-or find creatively cruel ways to wake us up when we sleep in. They aren’t the best damn seeker to ever grace the halls of Hogwarts-you are, don’t give me that look! Their hair isn’t dark or curly, and doesn’t frame their faces like yours. Their eyes aren’t impossibly green. They aren’t sarcastic and compassionate and stubborn and sweet and all other adjectives I could use to describe you. They don’t…they aren’t you. So why would I want anyone else?”

Harry gaped at the Gryffindor in front of her. She had basically gotten a confession of attraction-perhaps love-out of him. Had he even known what he was saying? Probably not. But the fact of the matter is that it was said. And he was looking at her with the biggest puppy eyes (pun intended) that she had ever seen.

And he was waiting for her to give a response.

What did he want her to say?

What did she want to say?

She chose not to say anything.

Reaching out, she tugged Sirius’s hands and both fell to their knees on the cold floor. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, burying her face in the side of his neck. He smelled of apples and sandalwood soap (which he ‘stole’ from Harry on the train ride to school, not knowing that it was a gift for him) and dust, with an earthy undertone.

“…Harry?”

“Shut up and hug me.” And let it be written in all the history books that on that day Sirius Orion Black did as he was told.

*

Who knows how long they sat there on the ground; but by the time they pulled away from each other their knees ached and their legs and feet tingled from pins and needles and there were marks on their faces and arms from being pressed tightly against the wrinkles of the other’s clothing.

“So…”

“So.”

They smiled at each other. Harry scratched at the back of her head. “I guess…if you still want to…we could…I don’t know. I’m not saying that I want to shag you and pop out a baby right now, because we’re both not ready for that kind of responsibility-but…if you can convince me by the end of the year that you’ve matured more I’ll think about going to the extremes to help you. Okay? But until then, why don’t we work on another way to get you out of the house.” She knew that it was immature of her to even suggest going through with his ridiculous plan (because really, having a child to get out of his parents’ house was not the answer) but she hoped that by then end of the year they would have a new plan.

Her musings were cut short by Sirius’s shout of joy and a pair of strong arms clamping around her torso. “Yes! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! You won’t regret it Harry! Starting now, I’m a new man! Someone you’ll be proud of!”

“We shall see. Now my Dear Padfoot, you and I need to go plotting, don’t you think?”

“Why, my Lovely Lioness, I thought you’d never ask!”

As the two Gryffindors walked out of the now unlocked door, they failed to notice the barely breathing Remus on the bed.

*

That evening, when James and Peter found the two leaning against each other in the Common Room, they thought that all was well and good in the world. After all, the duo couldn’t have gotten out of the Infirmary without having a heart-to-heart.

How very wrong they were.

They next morning, three out of the four male Marauders went to breakfast with Malfoy Blond hair. And when asked about it, they were only able to respond in shouts. In fact everything that came out of their mouth was a shout (except when in class, where they had to be brutally honest when speaking). This led to a very peaceful day once the boys realized what was going on. Harry looked back at it fondly as the day that James kept his big mouth shut for more than two minutes.   

Remus hadn’t spoken to them, or at all really. Although Harry had caught him staring at her and Sirius oddly a few times. Weird. He must have been trying to figure out how they managed to prank them.

*

On the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year, Sirius asked Harry to accompany him by gifting her a beautiful-if haphazardly put together- bouquet of flowers wrapped in a short ivy vine.  Daisies and daffodils, one blooming red rose in the center, some blue violets, some orchids and primroses, and a few gardenias and forget-me-nots. Harry had no idea what they meant, though Alice had squealed in delight (which was a good thing, right?) and offered to find her a book on flower meanings-which she declined.

The flowers were beautiful, but obviously mismatched in the bouquet and she thought that that suited them both perfectly.

Casting a quick preservation charm on the bouquet, Harry turned to her male friend.

She accepted.

*

Time progressed and so did their relationship. While it was not romantic yet by any means (despite what people seemed to think about them-you give a girl flowers [more than] one time and suddenly you’re fucking in a broom closet), they were far closer than they had ever been. Few and far were the times that one was found without the other. In the Common Room they would be draped over each other as they lounged or did their homework. They sat across from each other at meals (because Harry always sat next to Remus and Sirius always sat next to James) and filled the other’s plate with food (or took from it in some cases). They walked to and from Quidditch together and went as each other’s dates to parties…really, how could some people think that they were dating?

And Sirius matured (?) …for the most part. He was still Sirius-she would never ask him to be someone that he was not-but he took things more seriously. He did his homework on time, he didn’t needlessly attack Slytherins, and when Harry had gotten sick from being outside too long in January he stayed by her bedside and ‘nursed’ her back to health (which she really could have lived without, Madame Pomfrey’s potions had her right as rain in no time and Sirius had a tendency to be…overbearing when he played nurse; but it was sweet nonetheless). He still played pranks and flirted on occasion (Harry wasn’t sure how she felt about the flirting, both with her and other students), and he still made stupid jokes and used his stupidly charming smile to get him out of trouble. He was the same…but he wasn’t. He was…older almost. And Harry was proud that he lasted this long.

(And with no real plan to get him away from his parents this summer she’d have to consider going to the extremes. It wouldn’t be so bad if he really had matured, right?)

However, with time came OWLs. And with OWLs comes stress and…well old habits die hard and whatnot.

*

Harry thought that the Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL was a joke. Really! How to identify a werewolf? That was such an ambiguous question. Did they mean during the full moon or no? Newly turned or a seasoned wolf? A born wolf or a turned one? There were so many factors to consider-and she told (ranted to) Alice and Lily as such.

“How do you know all this?” Alice asked in awe. Harry snorted at her friend.

“As if I’m going to entrust a halfwit who won’t return next year with teaching me how to protect myself-no I went to the library and did the research myself. It was absolutely fascinating.”

“Hey look! It’s Severus!” Lily shouted, delighted. “Let’s catch up with him!” The Potter girl wasn’t on overly friendly terms with the Slytherin, but they had several pleasant conversations about potions on occasion. Honestly, she couldn’t figure out why her friends and brother hated him so. Sure he wasn’t the nicest guy out there, but he wasn’t as terrible as the other Marauders made him out to be.

“Alright-”

“Uh-oh, Harry look! It’s your brother and his friends.” Alice said, pointing to James and his entourage.

Hey, Snivellus!” Oh no. Not on her watch! Those idiots weren’t going to pull this shit today. Everyone-Severus included-deserved some peace and relaxation after the exam.

The three girls hurried to the boys, but gathering students blocked whatever view they had of the scene. They didn’t miss much though, for seconds after their view was blocked they saw Severus’s legs flail as he was suspended in the air and-

Nice one James!” Oh no. Oh hell no.

“Move out of my way!” Harry shouted at the group of students. No one moved, all too invested in the scene in front of them. Some were even laughing. Harry saw red. “I. Said. MOVE!!” In her anger, Harry sent out a strong burst of magic that pushed the students in front of her several feet away-many ran off. The remaining students stared at her. In terror or in awe? Probably both, but she didn’t care. Even the Marauders were giving her such looks-though theirs leaned more towards terror. “James Charlus Potter! Put him down. This. Instant!” she screamed. Her face was red and her eyes narrowed to green slits behind her glasses.

James, for his part, did not look as terrified as some of the other students, but he was weary of his sister. He had grown up with her, after all, and he knew her temper and what she was capable of. He sent her a shaky smile. “Hey sis! How was your test? Don’t mind Sniv-Snape. I’m just teaching him a lesson-he deserves it y’know.”

“He deserves…” She repeated incredulously. “Oh, I’ll teach you a lesson.” Her left hand shot forward and snatched her brother’s collar. Her other arm reared back, then launched at his face; connecting with the side of his face with a very satisfying sound.

(And seven hells did her fist hurt, but she would look at it later. Preferably when her mind was clearer and she wasn’t as likely to accidentally blow off her whole arm due to her anger.)

With his concentration broken, James’s spell was cancelled and Severus fell to the ground. A well placed cushioning charm from Alice saved him from any physical injuries. Lily rushed to his side.

Using the back of his hand James wiped blood from his face. “OW! What the fuc-!”

“You’re a son of a bitch, do you know that James?! I saw the whole thing-he did absolutely nothing to you! And you attacked him! And then you had the audacity to lie to my fucking face! Fuck you, you arrogant prat!” She punched him again. “And you!” She snapped up, glaring at the other three. “You three just stood there and laughed! This shit’s gone on long enough! And since none of the professors have done anything, I’m putting an end to it. Now. Pranks are one thing, but this is bullying-and that’s something I will not tolerate while I’m here. Especially from my family! You, Peter,” said boy flinched back. Perhaps he was afraid that she would punch him as well. That was a tempting thought at the moment. “Friend or not you shouldn’t encourage this behavior! You won’t be getting this warning again! And you,” She locked eyes with Remus. He met her gaze, but there was nervousness in his amber eyes. “Remus Lupin, you of all people should be against this senseless violence!  Not only that-but you’re a fucking Prefect! You should be stopping this shit from happening, not pretending that it isn’t going on! What kind example are you setting?! And You” she stepped into Sirius’s space so they were nose-to-nose (not unlike their argument earlier in the year). Her voice dropped to an angry whisper. “Sirius Orion Black. Is this what you call being a changed man? Being mature? A good role model? You can forget about me helping you-if this is what you call being mature then you can fuck right off.” She stepped back, not caring that Sirius’s face had lost any color it had previously had.

“I am fucking disgusted and disappointed in all four of you and I’m done with your shit. You’re either sixteen or you will be, and you need to grow the fuck up. If I have to ‘teach you this lesson’ again-as James so kindly put it-you can bet your asses that a couple of punches in the face would be a delight. I’m The Lioness, remember? And you four have brought me to my breaking point. Now get the fuck out of my sight and don’t talk to me for the rest of the week. Oh and James? I’m going to be talking to Mum and Dad bout this.” She sent her brother a vicious smirk before he and his friends stumbled off towards the school. Any remaining students fled as well.

She turned to Severus-who was still on the ground with Lily at his side. The redheaded witch tried to heal the scrapes on his hands (he must have gotten them at the beginning of the debacle), but Severus was having none of it. His face flushed in anger. “I don’t need help from a filthy mudblood or a blood traitor! I can fight my own battles!” Lily’s face flushed red as her hair. Before she could retort, Harry knelt next to her, ushering her to calm down. Her redheaded roommate stomped off instead. Great. There was no doubt that she’d have to find and console Lily after this mess was sorted. With a look to here brunette friend, Harry sent Alice after the upset witch. Rubbing her temples, she gave Severus a withering look.

“Shut the fuck up Snape. You have no right to be preaching about blood supremacy. And to be honest I’m sick of all this shit right now, I don’t need to deal with a ‘blood purity’ argument. But remind me that you and I need to have a long chat on why blood purity is fucking stupid and those who hate muggleborns are doing more harm than good for the Wizarding Community. Now, give me your hand.”

“No!”

“Stop acting like a child and give me your hand, Severus!” Her tone lightened to something that one could call kind. “I’m not going to hurt you; I’m just trying to help. I’m sorry I didn’t do anything sooner.” She gazed at his face, mentally pleading that he would understand how sincere her apology was and trust her.

Severus huffed, his face flushing from her stare. “You Gryffindors and your stupidity.” But he held out his hands. Harry held them gently as she fixed the damage from the attack.

“Do you…do you think Lily will talk to me again?” Severus asked quietly.

“Honestly? Probably not. And if she does, it won’t be for a very long time. Lily has a temper, you know this. And you called her-your friend no less-the most derogatory term you could when she was only trying to help you. That breach of trust will probably never fully heal.” Severus sighed. It was a deep, troubled sound of one who had lost, well, everything. Did it make her a bad person for not feeling bad for him? He had, after all, called their friend a terrible slur.

“MISS POTTER! What is the meaning of this?!” Professor McGonagall stomped up to the small group of students that still remained.

She was pissed. Dark robes billowed behind her as she marched to the duo. She must have seen the whole thing. Normally, Harry would have been terrified at seeing her head of house in such a state. But not this time. She stood, steadily meeting the angry gaze of her professor.

“I was protecting a fellow student, Professor, since no one else seemed like they were going to.”

“Miss Potter, violence is never-”

“With all due respect, Professor, James deserved it. He’s a bully, and he’s done a lot worse-a few punches to the face just scratches the surface of what he deserves. He’s been getting away with this behavior for years, and no one’s bothered to stop him. And last I checked, this school is a safe haven for students. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. You’ve got James and his friends attacking other students simply because they’re in Slytherin. You’ve got students who derisively call muggleborns ‘Mudbloods’, when these idiots know nothing about how magic works-or how dangerous their ‘Pureblood’ ways are and then proceed to bully and or ostracize them on this irrelevant fact alone! Tell me, how is this safe?”

McGonagall’s face flushed scarlet. “They are children Miss Potter!”

Harry shrugged. “Some of them, yes. Some of them are only repeating what their parents drilled into their heads. But some of them are legally adults. And most of them should be able to think for themselves and recognize the difference between right and wrong. Do not allow ‘they are just children’ to be your excuse for not doing anything. ‘Children’ need guidance, which is what they are here for, right? To be guided and taught so they can be successful in life.” Harry sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “You try your best Professor, I know you do, but students are getting hurt and humiliated in a place that they should feel safe and welcome. I know you can’t be in a thousand places at once, but for the love of Merlin talk to the Headmaster to find a system that works. Because obviously this one doesn’t. And you better believe that I will protect anyone who is getting bullied. I’ve sat and been idle for long enough. I don’t give a damn about their age or house-unlike some I was raised to not tolerate this foolishness. And you can give me detention for the rest of my school career, but that will not stop me.” She stared defiantly at her Head of House, daring her to object.

“You truly are a Gryffindor, Miss Potter.” McGonagall sighed. “And you certainly live up to your nickname ‘Lioness’. However, you physically assaulted a student; fifteen points shall be taken and you’ll serve detention with me tonight. Twenty-five points shall be awarded to you; for being the embodiment of a Gryffindor-having Nerve, Courage, Justice, and stubbornness (“Is that really a-”)-and doing the right thing by protecting a young wizard-from a different House no less-from your own kin. Another two points for going out of your way to heal the wizard; and another ten for pointing out how…flawed we teachers are when it comes to protecting students from other students. Perhaps in your detention tonight you and I can discuss any ideas you have to prevent such events from happening again.” The Head of Gryffindor gave the younger student a wink and a small, proud smile. Harry beamed back.

“I’d love to, Professor!”

*

“Holy shit my sister can punch! I think my jaw is broken!”

“Your jaw isn’t broken, James. Stop being dramatic.”

“It’s broken I tell you! I’ve never been more pissed off and proud in my life!”

“You deserved it. Don’t deny it.”

“I…yeah…I guess I did. Hey Pads, what did she say to you? You’re still white as a sheet!”

“Bet she threatened his family jewels!”

“Y-yeah. Something like that, Pete.”

“Do you think she’ll come to the Shack next week? She seemed really upset…”

“My sister is crazy! She’ll come because she’s mad at us, not Moony. She has a weird affinity for your furry side.”

*

Harry almost didn’t show. She sent a small basket of food to the shack (mostly for Moony) in case she didn’t go. But as she stared out of the window in her dormitory, listening to quiet noises from the other girls in the room, something compelled her to leave.

Silently, she slipped out of bed, put on her shoes and jacket, and cast a disillusionment charm on herself (And Sweet Merlin did she cringe at the sensation.). She went to the open window and held her arm out, snapping twice.

In moments a beautiful snowy owl landed on her wrist even though it was invisible. Hedwig was such an intelligent creature.

“Hey girl,” Harry whispered, mindful of her sleeping roommates. “Head over to the shack. I’ll meet you there.” The bird hooted, then launched herself into the air and flew in the direction their pack was.

*

The halls were empty and silent, making her tiptoe even though she had cast a silencing spell on herself. Filch had his ways after all.

Her heart raced. Why? She had been doing this for years! Why was she so on edge now?    

Once she was several yards off from the Whomping Willow, she understood.

Almost blending into the ground, barely illuminated by the full moon, was a dark figure heading in the same direction that she was. Harry thanked the stars that she could not be seen or heard as she quickened her pace. Mentally, she sent out a thanks to whatever force had compelled her to leave.

She had to stop the figure.

The person ahead of her was a young man-no, it was a student. The closer she got the more details she could see. He was tall and thin. He had long black (?) hair. He had a large nose with a distinct hook shape to it…

Severus Snape.

Why Severus? Why on earth was he heading to the Shack?

“What the hell…?” She whispered, speaking too low to be heard by the boy. 

Frantic footsteps raced from behind them. They got faster, louder as the new person approached. Turning, Harry saw her brother: panting and terrified. Out of everyone, Harry hadn’t expected her brother. What was he doing out? He should have been with the others in the Shack! 

“Sniv-Snape! Snape wait! Don’t go in there!” Severus turned around, glaring at James.

“Potter. And why is that?”

“Because…because Sirius was just playing a prank on you! There’s nothing down there for you to find-please, just trust me!” Oh god. He didn’t…

“And why should I trust you?” The Slytherin sneered.

Harry cancelled her disillusionment charm. She appeared off to the side, but jumped in between the two. Both boys stared at her with wide eyes (and yes, no matter what Severus would say, he was shocked at her appearance).  She held up her hands as a sign of peace.

“Trust me, then. Don’t go down there, it’s not worth it Severus.” She walked up to the Slytherin, placing her hand on his shoulder. He glanced at it, like he wasn’t used to being touched (or he was disgusted that he was being touched by a Potter). He probably wasn’t. Harry stared at his face, choosing her next words and speaking as earnestly as possible. “I’m sorry-truly sorry-for the trouble they’ve caused you. But you better believe that I am going to have words with Sirius.”

The Slytherin boy considered her for a moment, as if he didn’t believe her. Wow, rude. Finally, he nodded. “Alright, I believe you’re…capable enough to handle that idiot. Wipe that cocky smirk off his face for me.” He gives her a look that screams ‘use dark spells’. She wouldn’t go that far but she was already thinking of ‘lighter’ spells to use.

“Consider it done, Severus.”

The dark haired boy nods. “Goodnight-uh-Harry.”

“Goodnight, Severus.”

Severus turned and walked back to the castle with only the slightest nod to James.

“Wow, you’re welcome for saving your life Snape.” James muttered.

Harry looked at her brother. Having been denied the use of any potions or balms by their parents to get rid of the bruise (and boy were they pissed at him), the lower left side of his face was a lovely mix of green and yellow. “Y’know…you did the right thing James. I’m proud of you.”

James shuffled, embarrassed. “Yeah, well…I couldn’t let him die. I may not like him, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to condemn him to death.”

“That’s…shockingly mature of you. Now,” her eyes darkened. “I’m going to kill Sirius.”

*

When she and Prongs and Hedwig walked into the Shrieking Shack, they were met by an anxious and bloody Moony. She didn’t even bother fussing over his wounds this time. She bared her neck to let him sniff her, but once he was done, Harry backed away.

“Hey buddy! Did you miss me? Yeah, I can tell! Did you eat yet? No? Well, go on! I need to borrow Padfoot for a few minutes, okay?” Moony gave her a whine, but went to his basket of untouched meat.

Padfoot didn’t look like he was going to come with her any time soon. His tail was between his legs, and his furry head bowed and his ears pressed flat. He looked up at her with big eyes. “Yeah, look cute all you want, Mutt. It’s not going to save you. Outside, Sirius.” Padfoot whined. “Sirius, outside or I’ll have you neutered!” That was a threat that she’d gladly follow through with if he kept this behavior up.

The dog sensed this. He trudged to the doorway with his tail between his legs as if he was marching to his execution. It was his fault though. If he was going to pull that bullshit then he needed to be prepared to deal with the consequences.

Once they were both at the door, Harry opened it enough to let them both through, and then waited for the wars to lock it. They walked down the dark tunnel until they were far enough from the Shack that Moony wouldn’t hear them, and just barely on school grounds.

Harry shot the animagus reversal spell at the dog’s back.

“Ow! What the fuck-” Sirius yelled as he toppled to the ground.

Don’t. You know what was for!”

Sirius stood and dusted the dirt from his clothing. “Is this about Snivellus? He deserved it!” Taking out his wand, Sirius casted a Lumos spell and proceeded to check if he had gotten all the dirt off his rear.

“He deserved it? And what in Merlin’s name did he do that warranted this?!” She gestured down the tunnel where they had just come from.

The Black heir’s attention snapped to her, eyes wild. “He bewitched you! Can’t you see?! He’s either put a spell on you or he’s poisoning you with potions! Why else would you defend him-you don’t even like him!”

Harry stared at the other Gryffindor in shock. Had he seriously tried to kill Severus because he was jealous? “I don’t have to like him to protect him from assholes like you-and I certainly don’t have to like him to save his fucking life!”

“Save his life? What are you on about?!”

“How fucking daft are you?! Moony would have murdered him!” At the word murder, Sirius paled.

“What? N-no he wouldn’t have!” He stammered.

Harry looked at the boy like he was stupid. “Yes, he would have. A strange wizard coming into his territory where his entire pack is? Of course he’s going to attack-he’d want to protect us you idiot! And if he didn’t kill him he’d turn him! Do you fucking think at all Sirius?! You almost turned our best friend into the thing he’s afraid of most!”

“I-I didn’t-”

“Didn’t what? Didn’t think? You never do, and that’s the problem! And you wanted a kid! A kid Sirius! You almost executed a boy because of something as petty as jealousy-don’t fucking look at me like that! That’s exactly what it was!-and you think you’re capable of raising a child?! You’re pathetic! No…you’re just like your parents!”

Sirius staggered back as if he had been struck. “I am nothing like them!”

“You almost killed someone, Sirius! For no fucking reason! How is that not like your parents?! You’re doing a piss poor job being better than them Sirius!” She tugged at her dark curls. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, she knew that she was lying. Sirius was better than his parents, but if he continued his hateful behavior he’d end up just like them! “I can’t deal with this bullshit right now. I’ll be back when Moony transforms.”

She left Sirius, hurt and gaping, in the tunnel.

*

She did return, though it was several hours later. Everyone was asleep in different spots of the room instead of the usual dog pile. Moony was bleeding and whining, so she sat next to the wolf and gently stroked his head.

“Shh, Moony. It’s alright. I’m here now, see? Just a few more minutes, love.”

She sat by the werewolf’s side as he transformed back into her friend. When he managed to open his still golden eyes, he glared at her accusingly.

“You weren’t here.” He whispered, betrayed.

Harry felt awful. It wasn’t Remus’s fault that the incident had happened, and yet he was the one who was punished for it. “I’m sorry. I’ll tell you why once you’ve gotten your rest. Come on.” She didn’t bother waking the others. There were no more classes, since OWLs were over, so there was no rush (plus she really didn’t want to see Sirius yet).

*

“He did what?!”

“I’m sorry Rem; but now you know why I wasn’t there. I was so mad-I wanted to attack him.”

“I don’t blame you…where is he now?”

“I don’t know.”

*

Her trunk was packed for the trip home the next day-all but the clothes she’d wear on the express.

And apparently the two-way mirror she shared with the boys.

Harry? Harry! Are you there?!” Her brother yelled, breaking the wonderful silence of the dorm. Hopefully none of the other girls were woken by him.

God why was he so loud so late at night? All she wanted to do was go to bed! She snatched the hand-held mirror from her bed-side table with a groan. “Yes, Jamie. What do you want?”

It’s Sirius, he-

“Honestly, I don’t care, James. He’s being overdramatic as usual.”

No! There’s something wrong with him! He’s having another one of his attacks!” Despite her anger, Harry froze.

Sirius, on occasion, had these…episodes where he couldn’t breathe and started hyperventilating, or he got sick and shaky…Harry and the others knew that they had something to do with his parents. They were sporadic, but the worst ones generally happened around the holidays. The Marauders came up with a treatment of sorts…a breathing exercise followed by a mug of hot chocolate with a few drops of calming draught. It worked, for the most part.

“You know how to deal with it, James. Why are you calling me?” She mumbled.

This time is different! I’ve never seen him this bad!

“James…”

No really! He’s shaking like a leaf, and he keeps muttering something-but when we try to talk to him it’s like he can’t hear us! Look!” James turned his mirror so that it was pointing to Sirius’s bed. The curtains were drawn, showing the curled figure on the bed. James was right, Sirius was trembling with his fingers threaded through his hair. He was staring unblinkingly at something at the foot of his bed. His lips were moving, though Harry couldn’t hear what he was saying. Remus and Peter were at his side, gently speaking to him. “See? He’s never been this bad. Harry, please! I know you’re mad at him but I’m scared for him.

“James, shut up and go get the hot chocolate. I’ll be over in a second.” She didn’t give her brother time to respond. She ended their chat and threw the mirror onto her bed.

She raced out the hall and down the staircase and to the Boy’s Dormitory. She didn’t bother with knocking, though Remus was at the door already. He looked tired, whether from Sirius’s condition or being released from the hospital wing a few hours prior Harry wasn’t sure. He gave her a half attempted smile.

“How is he?”

“Not good.” He responded.

Peter and James were gone, she noted. She ran to Sirius’s bed, crawling onto it so she was in front of his knees.

“Peter went with James. Said that he was going to get us all some snacks as well as the hot chocolate. Honestly, I think he couldn’t bear looking at Sirius like this.” Remus sat next to her.

Harry made a noncommittal noise. Carefully, she extracted Sirius’s hands from his hair, keeping them gently cradle between her own. “Sirius? Sirius can you hear me?” She asked quietly. He didn’t look at her, nor did he make any acknowledgement at her presence. He trembled violently. His eyes trained on that spot at the end of his bed. His lips were dry and cracked and repeating the same near-silent words over and over. “Sirius!”

Somewhere in one of the many books in the library, she had read that a person could channel their magic and send them out in waves to calm someone-ease their pain-or cheer them (there were ways to make them negative results, but Harry hadn’t dwelled on that). But it took a lot of power and concentration-especially for someone as young and untrained as she.

“Remus, I need you to be quiet, okay? And if anything…bad happens get Madam Pomfrey.”  

“What?”

“Remus!”

“Okay! What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to help Sirius…I hope.”

Remus didn’t respond, and she took that as her cue to begin. She took a deep breath, and then another. She needed to be calm. To concentrate. She inhaled, counting to four, and exhaled doing the same. She repeated this several times until she was calm and her mind was clear. Then she focused all of her energy into her hands. If her eyes had been open she would have noticed a pale blue glow around their hands.

Now came the hard part. Without an emotional conduit like anger to focus her energy it would be a lot harder for her to send out her magic in a wave. She just needed to give it a little push.

She opened her eyes.

Nope, Sirius was still staring at nothing.

She tried again. Still nothing.

She tried four more times and each time there was nothing.

Sweat ran down the sides of her face and down her neck. This was ridiculous! “Come on!” She gave one last push, mentally screaming a plea for her magic to just fucking work with her so she could help her friend!

Finally-finally-her magic cooperated with her.  Harry felt a small wave of the calming magic throughout the room (it wasn’t much, but it was pretty impressive for a first try. She’d have to remember to practice over the summer). From somewhere behind her, she heard Remus let out a quiet sigh. In front of her, Sirius blinked. His muttering stopped.

Bleary gray eyes looked around the room until they found her exhausted form.

“H-Harry?” He asked. Another tremor shook his body.

“Yeah, I’m right here Siri. Jamie and Pete went to go get hot chocolate, but for now you and I are going to do some breathing exercises, okay?”

“Okay.”

She smiled. “Remus, can you help me move him? I want him lying down.” The werewolf nodded. Together they maneuvered Sirius so that he was on his stomach, half lying on Harry’s front with his nose pressed against her collarbone. One of Harry’s hands was on the crown of his head; the other was resting on his spine. “There we are. Okay, in for four, out for four. Alright?”

Sirius hummed.

Slowly, Harry moved the hand that was on his back in a circle. With each rotation she counted: In, two, three, four; Out, two, three, four. She breathed with him; filling her lungs on the first count of four and exhaling all of it on the second count. They repeated this several times until the tremors lessened.

“Good. You’re doing very well, Sirius. Now: in for four, out for eight. Ready? In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.” They repeated this and once Harry thought they were ready they moved from eight to twelve. Then from twelve to sixteen.

Then they stopped.

Sirius’s breathing was normal-thank Merlin-and the tremors had slowed into a very light shudder. His eyes were squeezed shut, his face pressed tightly against her collar bone. Harry stroked his hair. Remus sat next to them, rubbing Sirius’s shoulder. The two shared worried looks over Sirius’s head.

That was how Peter and James found them.

“Is he…better?” Peter asked hesitantly. He handed Remus and Harry their hot chocolate.

“Thanks.” Harry said. “And he is…a bit. He’ll be better once he rests.” It was hard to get into a proper sitting position with Sirius draped over her, but somehow she managed. “Sirius, James has hot chocolate for you. Come on, sit up.”

Groaning, Sirius pushed himself up. It took more effort than he was ever willing to admit to turn around, and when he stayed leaning against Harry’s side…well the others wisely didn’t comment. He accepted his drink with a quiet ‘thanks’. The spoon clinked softly against the mug with his tremors-something that annoyed and frustrated him.

One warm, delightfully chocolatey, drugged sip and he could feel his body calming. Another sip and he stopped shaking.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Harry asked once he finished half the mug.

“What’s there to talk about? I had an episode, thanks for the help, I’m better. You can go back to your room now.” He replied in a calm-though hollow-voice. He barely even glanced at her as he spoke; gesturing to the door with his mug as if he was saying ‘run along now’.

“Go back to my room-? Sirius I’m worried about you!”

“Mate, she’s right. We’re all worried. This was the worst one yet, what the hell triggered it?” James asked.

Sirius was silent for a while, just staring at the cooling liquid in his cup. “Snape.” He said after a while. James’s face purpled so fast that Harry worried that her brother would pop a blood vessel. “No, he didn’t do anything, or say anything James. It’s about what happened last night. He almost got to the Shack-almost found out Rem’s secret. He could have been hurt…or worse. And Rem would have been to blame. I see now that not only could I have killed Snape, but who knows what would have happened to Remus if it had happened. I really am no better than my parents…”He broke off with a sigh, placing his head in his hand.

Harry could only hear the hateful words she had spat the night before. She had wanted her words to hurt him so he could see how wrong he was. She didn’t want or expect this!

Reaching out, she wrapped her thin arms around his torso, nuzzling her face into his back. “You aren’t like your parents.” She whispered into his hair. “You are better than them. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I didn’t mean for this…I just wanted you to realize how wrong-how dangerous that was.” Sirius laughed bitterly.

“You were right though. I’m an idiot who’s just going to end up hurting someone.”

“Stop that!” James yelled, making the others jump. “So yeah, you fucked up. You fucked up big. You know what happens now? You learn from it! Learn from your mistakes to help better yourself. You are not Orion Black or Walburga Black. You are Sirius Orion Black. You’re my best mate. And I know you are nothing like your parents!”

Sirius blinked at him. He wanted to cry but that stupid potion was keeping him eerily calm! “How can you…how can you still be so nice to me? I’m a monster.”

“Nah, You-Know-Who is a monster. You? You just made a mistake, and we’ll be right here to knock some sense in you if it happens again.” Sirius nodded, and then turned to Remus.

“Do you…can you forgive me Moony?”

Remus sighed. “I’m pissed, yeah. But I’ll get over it. I know you didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. If you pull a stunt like this again though…?”

“…Right.” He reached up, covering Harry’s smaller hands with his. “I’m lucky then, to have such awesome friends.”

“Always!”

The conversation ended after that. The dishes were banished to the kitchen and the quintet munched on the sweets that Peter had snuck up.

James and Peter went back to packing their trunks. Remus had packed not long after getting out of the Hospital Wing that day, so he went back to his bed to change into his pajamas (behind the bed-curtains, of course) and then proceeded to read a book. Sirius and Harry lounged on the bed, Harry’s arm draped over Sirius’s shoulders, as they watched the other two.

“Ew, I think it’s alive!” Peter said as he pulled an old sock (?) out from under his bed. James laughed, telling him that it could be their dorm pet.

“You boys are disgusting.” Harry told them.

The two Marauders smirked at each other. “Why Harry, I think it likes you!” with a flick of his wrist, James sent the sock (?) flying at Sirius’s bed. It landed on the duvet with a disgustingly wet sound.

“Aw man, my bed!”

“Oh-That’s repulsive! Peter I don’t even think this is salvageable anymore. I think you should just burn it!”

“Then who would be our pet?”

Harry gave the blond a flat look. “I’m sure you’d find something.” Flicking her own wand, she sent the maybe-a-sock-creature flying at her brother’s backside. She cackled at his cry of outrage. Even Sirius let out a tired laugh. “Do you want to go to bed?” She asked him softly.

“Yeah, I guess.” He replied with a yawn.

“Did you pack your trunk yet?”

“No. I’ll do it in the morning.”

She rolled her eyes. That was the Sirius they all knew and loved. “I’m not helping you this time.” He snorted. “I’m serious!”

“No, I am.”

“Oh sweet Merlin, someone help me.” She muttered. But it was all in good fun. He was telling his stupid jokes again so he must have been feeling a little better, and that’s what mattered. “Do you want me to stay here tonight?”

“…Yes.”

“’Kay, get under the covers.” She sat up and started pulling the curtains closed. “Sirius and I are going to bed,” she told the other three. “So goodnight, sleep tight, and all that jazz. And if you aren’t up bright and early in the morning, I’ll drag you all down to breakfast by your ears.” She finished with a smile. The others, though weary of the threat, bid her and Sirius goodnight. She pulled the last curtain closed.

Sirius, in one of his more brilliant moments, had charmed the curtains to block noise from the outside once they were closed. Mostly because the combination of Peter and James snoring was enough to drive a person mad. The silence was near deafening as she pulled the last curtain into place.

“How’d you ever get used to this?” She asked quietly, not wanting to disrupt the silence. She crawled back up next to Sirius and under the covers. An arm slung over her waist.

“It’s either the silence or listening to James and Peter out-snore each other. Personally, I prefer the silence.”

Harry made a soft noise of agreement. She shifted, trying to get comfortable on the small bed (which was really not made for more than one person, go figure). She ended up resting her head on her left arm, while her right hand played with stray strands of Sirius’s hair. His warm breath gently hit her face, giving her goosebumps.

‘…or lie next to me and talk to me for hours when I have a nightmare…

She gulped. (Part of her, deep-deep down wished that she had agreed to his plot at the beginning of the year so he wouldn’t have to return to his terrible parents.) This would probably be one of the last times Sirius would be getting comfort or affection for the rest of the summer. She was glad to be able to give it to him. “Sirius?”

“Hmm?”

“This summer…if anything happens…anything at all, I want you to come and find me. Find me or James. You will always be welcome at our home.”

Sirius didn’t respond, but the arm around her waist tightened.

*

The next morning, Harry’s alarm woke the duo up at six thirty (an unholy time, according to Sirius [“It should be illegal to wake up this early!”]). After some well-placed threats and a few choice spells the four boys were awake and dressing to go to breakfast. No dragging by the ears involved.

The ‘Last Meal’-as they liked to call it-was always a bit depressing. While some students were more than ready to go home for the holiday and see their family the Marauders were not. They were somber as they picked at their food. For Remus, the next few moons would be hell. For Peter, he would be getting picked on by his two older siblings all summer and he would get very few opportunities to see his friends. For James and Harry, they would stay up all night during the full moons-wishing they could help their friend, they would try to console Peter through letters, and they would have to communicate with Sirius in secret and constantly worry for him. For Sirius, he was going ‘home’.

Sirius, James, and Peter rushed back to the dorms after eating to finish packing (which, in Sirius’s case was just shrinking his mess and putting it in his trunk, disgusting). Harry and Remus followed behind at a more leisurely pace.

“I’m going to miss you Remus.” Harry said to him as they started ascending the stairs.

“We haven’t even left yet.”

“I know.” She shrugged. “But that doesn’t make it any less true.”

They climbed the rest of the first staircase in silence. When they reached the second, however, Remus reached out and grasped Harry’s arm, stopping her.

“Remus? Is something wrong?”

Remus shook his head. “Not wrong, per se, but…I don’t know. Maybe it is wrong. But I needed to tell you because it’s been a weight on my mind all year and-”

“-Remus, what in Merlin’s name are you going on about?”

The werewolf sighed. “Do you remember the big fight you and Sirius had at the beginning of the year?” Of course she did, what kind of question was that? She nodded, slowly saying that ‘Yes, she did’. “Right. Of course. Well…Do you remember how we locked you in my ‘room’ to make you guys talk?”

Harry’s green eyes widened. She really hoped that he wasn’t going to say what she thought he was. “Y-e-s…”

“I…uh…wasn’t exactly as asleep as you thought I was.” Of course the idiot had to say it. Great. Now Remus knew their secret. She was doomed! He’d tell James and then James would go into ‘over protective big brother’ mode and would be out for blood. Oh god. Sirius was going to die!  

“You aren’t going to tell James, are you?” She asked, panicked.

“No…it’s not my place.”

Oh thank Merlin!’ She let out a shaky breath. “Then why are you telling me this?”

Blushing, Remus rubbed the back of his head. “I…when you guys were fighting we had thought that it was over something stupid and that’s why we intervened. And…I don’t know…I want to apologize for kind-of spying. That was a very personal topic and I had no place being there for that conversation.” He trailed off, looking at one of the moving portraits.

Harry stared at him, stunned. She expected him to reprimand her about how she handled the situation, or telling her that he agreed with her or something else. But an apology was not what she was expecting. She wanted to be mad at him-well, madder than she was-but if she was being honest had he and the others not intervened she would probably still be fighting with Sirius.

The dark haired girl took a step towards Remus who was watching her wearily. “I’m very angry at you for spying because you’re right: It wasn’t your place. However. I have to thank you as well.”

“Thank me?”

“Yes. If it wasn’t for your…stunt…Sirius and I would probably be going at it still, and our friendship would probably be ruined. So thank you.”

“Er…you’re welcome?”

She smiled at him. Not a warm smile, but one that promised pain and suffering. “If you mention this to James though, I will find you Remus Lupin and it will not be pretty.” With a gulp and a nod the werewolf agreed that James would never ever find out from him. Harry’s cold smile turned into a genuine one. “Awesome! Now let’s go make sure they haven’t destroyed anything.”

“So Harry,” Remus asked not long before they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. “Does this mean that you and Sirius are dating now? Is that why you guys started hanging out more?”

She sent a curse his way.

*

Train rides were always eventful when travelling with the Marauders. Generally there was prank brainstorming and long chats and a food fight or two. On the train ride home there was still all of that, but the normal cheer that was there was faked and forced to the point where the group would fall into several awkward silences.

Harry spent the ride leaning against Remus with Sirius’s head on her lap as she read a book while idly running her fingers through Sirius’s hair. Remus was staring at nothing out the window. Sirius was having a silent crisis. Peter napped, mostly. James was constantly moving: cleaning his glasses, pacing, leaving to use the loo, leaving to find Lily, and repeat.

It wasn’t an overly fun ride.

When the locomotive pulled into Kings Cross Station, they gave one another tearful hugs and the usual ‘don’t forget to write’. Harry reminded Remus that if the first full moon of the summer was too much for him to handle, she be there for the next one despite what Remus’s parents would say. “I’ll stun them if I have to!”

Remus nodded as if he agreed but, like every year, he would not contact her.

Then she moved to Peter, pulling him into a tight hug and inviting him over so he could get away from his siblings for a while.

And then she got to Sirius. She stared into his gray eyes, which had already started looking dead, and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. “Remember what I said to you last night,” She whispered. She pulled back enough to look him in the eyes again. “If anything happens you come straight to me or James. I don’t care what time of day it is. We will never turn you away, Sirius. We love you.” Surprisingly, he pulled her back into another crushing hug.

“Thank you.”

James managed to pry them away so he could say his own goodbye-which was no less emotional than his sister’s had been. He too extended invitations to the other three (Sirius especially) for the summer. And then he handed every Marauder a small, pocket sized mirror.

“For communicating.” He said with a shrug. “Harry’s was the prototype, remember? I finished these a little after Easter. They’re smaller, quieter, and will actually give notice when someone tries to call instead of just connecting. I still haven’t figured out how to connect more than one at a time though…” He said it as if the item meant nothing, but to the others, it was priceless. The four others wrapped James in a group hug, chanting their thanks to him. “Uh, no problem. Just make sure you use them!”

Finally, after prolonging the inevitable for as long as possible, the group went their separate ways.

Remus went with his mother who greeted him with a kiss to the top of his head.

Peter went off with his parents.

James and Harry went with their parents.

Sirius was picked up by Kreacher, because his parents had already arrived home with Regulus.

*

Two nights later, at one in the morning, there was a knock on the main doors of Potter Manor.